It's time to create an online marketplace that lets Internet users sell their data directly to companies that want it.
We all know our online activity is valuable. Google and Facebook, among others, make a fortune by trading services such as search or social networking in exchange for knowledge of our online activity, which they gather and resell to advertisers.
Now AT&T is getting in on the act, charging Gigapower customers as much as $66 a month to opt out of having their Web activity tracked and sold.
It's clear there’s a market for user data -- for our data. And where there's a market, there's opportunity. Instead of being pimped out by broadband providers, search engines, and social networks, it's time to start pimping out ourselves -- and getting a cut of that cold, hard cash.
I propose the creation of an online marketplace that allows us to sell the rights to our Web activity to the highest bidders.
I’m not sure of the technical specifications for how to pull this off. Maybe some kind of super-cookie that sits on my devices and hoovers up everything I do. This super-cookie could then link to an online market or markets where buyers bid for the data.
This super-cookie would have to be encrypted so that only authorized sources could get access to the data, and we'd need a mechanism to stop other cookies from collecting what we do online.
As for the marketplace, the seller could set preferences for how much or how little he or she is willing to share based on monetary return.
For instance, buyers may pay a base price for information such as age, annual income, and searches related to jogging. But if users included a feed from an activity tracker, they could charge a premium for buyers that want additional data.
Sellers could also link in other data sources, such as location data from smartphones or smartwatches, mobile payment information, and other feeds.
And every time our data is purchased, we get a cut.
Companies like Facebook, Google, and now AT&T act like they're doing us a favor by giving us a free or discounted service in exchange for our data. But if our online activity generates billions in profits for these companies, shouldn’t they be paying us?
Clearly there are technical barriers to such a system, but those barriers can be surmounted.
More important is that the time has come to upend the current economic relationship between consumers and Internet services.
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There's a lucrative market for our data. If we're going to get sold anyway, why shouldn't we get a piece of the action?
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